Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
When I can’t fall asleep, should I stay in bed and keep trying or get up and do something?
A: It is important to prepare yourself for the resting period at night. Follow this simple regime:
• Do not eat at least two hours prior to going to bed; in fact, your last meal should be no later than 7 PM, and you should go to bed no later than 10PM.
• Take a 15-minute relaxing (not vigorous) walk in the fresh air about one hour prior to going to bed. Try to clear your daily calendar and not leave too many things unfinished, as these things tend to clutter the mind.
• Ten to fifteen minutes before going to bed find a quiet, uncluttered, and comfortable room and sit in a comfortable chair with a high back. Lean against the back and stretch your legs out. Cross your ankles so that your left (if male) or right (if female) ankle overlaps your other ankle. Place your hands on your chest or upper abdomen with your left (if male) or right (if female) hand overlaps your other hand, palms facing the chest or upper abdomen, and drape your arms on your body. This should feel like you are comfortably lounging on the chair. Close your eyes and for ten to fifteen minutes and practice deep, slow, and comfortable breathing into your lower abdomen. Do not take shallow breathes into your chest. With every inhalation your lower abdomen should rise without force. This deep breathing and placement of the hands and feet will create a comfortable zone for you to prepare your body and mind for sleep.
Do not return to daily activities afterwards, you should be ready to go to bed immediately after this exercise.
Additionally, you might try the “Anxiety/Sleepless” and “Sleep” herbal formulas and “Emotional Tranquility” tea from Traditions of Tao to help calm and relax the mind and alleviate insomnia. Of course, discuss with your physician before beginning any new health regime.